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Asimov's Nightmare

Here's a post-Halloween treat for you all. There is an office complex just a few miles from my house that never fails to excite a few giggles. First off, it houses iRobot, a company name that immediately conjures up images of both the Isaac Asimov series, the Will Smith movie, and of course Winslow from Questionable Content. The same complex houses, if memory serves, something called The Christian Technology Center. Both businesses tend to prompt hilarious questions.

Being the type of person who not so much can't allow questions to go unresolved as knows without a doubt that he will stumble over the answer eventually, I finally found out what iRobot is. Those of you more aware than myself knew this, as iRobot is responsible for the Roomba, the cute little round robot that vacuums your apartment even as it terrifies household pets and sends them into jealous frenzies.

I shouldn't be surprised that, even as I discover something cool and interesting, I simultaneously find out something terrifying. iRobot not only makes harmless little cleaning robots, it also is making the latest in semi-autonomous engines of warfare. The Warrior, as it is called, is a 150 lb. robot tank capable of some of climbing stairs, disarming bombs, carrying a 200 lb. payload, and driving up to 20 mph. It doesnt end there, though, as iRobot is partnering with a company called MetalStorm. While iRobot is concentrating on making a robot that can not only do incredible things via remote control and make some of its own decisions (!), MetalStorm is designing a weapons system that includes a 40mm cannon capable of firing at least 16 rounds a second, with a grenade launcher on board just for kicks. Holy crap.

Im starting to get concerned. Not only is The Terminator's Skynet is just a few miles down the road, but the companys name is derived from Asimovs stories (I, Robot) where he introduces the 3 Laws of Robotics. These laws are designed to make robots benevolent intelligences that unfailingly work to the benefit of mankind. In the stories the Laws are invariably made of Fail.

I am, of course, joking when I imply that there is an inevitable robot holocaust within my lifetime. (Ha?) Even so, everything about this seems designed to provoke wild speculation. What if, for example, iRobot teams up with its neighbor, the Christian Technology Center, to create the Crusador class robot? With its flaming sword and Ten Commandments based AI, the judgment of sadly flawed humanity is undoubtedly at hand.

This wont, you know, happen. At all. Still, it does feel like reality is just a couple steps removed from a Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror special these days. Can Kang and Kodos be far away?



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